CDC Reports 55 Percent Reduction in Teen Driving Fatalities
While most people are aware that teenage drivers make up the age group most likely to be involved in a fatal car crash, new data indicates that teenage driver fatalities have radically declined during the last decade. The new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta reveals that driving deaths involving teens aged 16 to 19 years decreased by 55 percent from 2004 through 2013. The number of teenage car accident fatalities fell from 5,725 to 2,568 during that ten year period.
The CDC report announcing the results posited a number of theories for the decline, but graduated driver's licensing (GDL) programs were considered a significant factor. Currently, all fifty states and the District of Columbia have enacted some type of GDL law. Graduated driver's license programs are presumed to have contributed to the decline in a couple of distinct ways. Generally, GDL programs extend driving privileges to teen drivers on an incremental basis and restrictions are removed as the teen becomes more experienced behind the wheel.
The most common restrictions under GDL laws include limits on the ability of novice drivers to transport teen passengers, bans on all cell phone use in the vehicle, and restrictions on nighttime driving. 49 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) impose limits on nighttime driving, while 47 states and D.C. limit the number of teen passengers that can be transported by a new teen driver, according to the Governor's Highway Safety Association (GHSA) website (Downloads a PDF or the report). The site also indicates that 37 states and D.C. prohibit novice teen drivers from engaging in any form of cell phone use while operating a vehicle.
Aside from the specific restrictions imposed by GDL laws, CDC researchers suggest that these laws have reduced teen driving fatalities in another way. Many teens are waiting longer to obtain their driver's license, so they can avoid the limitations imposed by a restricted license. Because teens are procrastinating in obtaining their driver's licenses, there are a smaller percentage of teen drivers on the road at ages 16 and 17 years, which is when teen accident rates peak. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Highway Loss Data Institute reports that accident rates for 16-17 year-olds are nearly double than for 18-19 year-olds based on a per mile driven basis.
Ruth Stults, an injury prevention researcher at the CDC who worked on the recent study, indicates that data from the study suggests that GDL programs can reduce teen driving fatalities by 20 to 40 percent by reducing the number of teen drivers on the road and placing restriction on teen passengers.
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